Saturday, May 23, 2015

Family Tech: Apple Watch: still in the nice-to-have category

I expected to be impressed with the Apple Watch and I was. But then, I’m a cheap date when it comes to tech. I like just about everything.

And you’d be forgiven if you think the only watch out there is the Apple Watch. Apple’s excellent juggernaut of marketing has done a good job.

People who have worn the Apple Watch and the Motorola’s Moto 360, which runs on Google’s Android Wear operating system, have commented that they expected Apple’s to be far and away better than the Moto 360. Instead, they feel they are near comparable.

For many, smartphones are close to the have-to-have category. Yet watches, I think, are still in the nice-to-have category and only for some people.

Watches are designed to augment smartphones and make up for one of biggest shortcomings of smartphones.

It is really hard to resist when you hear your phone ding or vibrate notifying you of a new text, notification or other message. We tell ourselves we are not being rude when we pull our phone out for a quick glance, but of course we are.

With a watch, the notifications show up on the watch. While it still not cool to glance at the watch during a conversation, at least the intrusion into your life is briefer. The offense is less, theoretically. It’s a much faster glance at your wrist then to take your phone out and perhaps have to slide to unlock and pull down the notification screen.

The watch is not necessary to me and I have not bought one – yet. Maybe when they get cheaper. Now they range from about $200 to $350 for an entry-level Apple Watch – and up. The Apple watch can get as high as $1,700 for one gold-plated. That does not seem a prudent purchase of something likely to be updated in a year and obsolete a few years later.

An advantage of a watch over a phone is accessibility, when your hands may be otherwise full. One of those moments I can think of is rushing through an airport while managing luggage. American Airlines is the first to offer an app that will show a barcode for your boarding pass.

Starwood Hotels will let you unlock your hotel door with a flick of your wrist if it has an Apple Watch on it. More airlines and hotels will no doubt follow suit.

Other activities where you need to collect data maybe make a count or time events, where you need to be discreet will lend themselves to watches. There are audio-recording apps too for recording encounters.

My favorite app is available on both watches. Evernote’s watch lets you dictate quick notes or do a voice search for a previously created note.

You can even take or make a phone call through your Apple Watch. While this may thrill those raised on Dick Tracy, it is probably too geeky for many. It is a good way to quickly tell a caller you cannot talk just now and will call them back soon.

The phones let you see an incoming text or email and dictate a response. You can tell it to set an alarm or create a reminder then it displays on the watch or your phone.

If you are walking or driving, your watch can display turn-by-turn directions. The watches gently vibrate to indicate there is a new message or direction for you to notice.

A mainstay of watches is as a fitness monitor. They will help you know how many steps you have taken and help you plan and monitor your exercise.

It may be silly, but one reason I want an Apple or Wear watch is the changeable watch faces you can use. You can enjoy the thrill of a new watch simply by downloading a new watch face.

If you want a watch and have an iPhone, then the Apple Watch is for you. Currently, watches running on Android Wear operating system do not work with iPhones, but are the only ones that work with Android phones.

This is a brand-new category. Early adopters are rushing to buy them, but if you do not know if you need one, hold off. This is early in the game, they certainly will get better fast.

And watches are going to be yet another challenge for educators and employers. Now it is easy to see if a student or employee is distracted by their phone. It will be harder when they starting wearing smart watches.

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